In a normal year, less than 20 percent of us get a flu shot. That means that, with the 55 million doses of vaccine that were available, we should have been all right. Instead, we endured a full-blown media panic.
Front-page stories in the Chicago Tribune told of people traveling hundreds of miles to get inoculated and pointed out that, while the Chicago Bears football team received shots, the ?common man? couldn?t get one.
Now, months later, the panic has died down and media outlets are quietly noting the country actually has more flu shots than we can use. Tens of thousands of doses will be discarded at the end of this month.
The real story isn?t that humankind is vulnerable to diseases -- it?s that we?ve done such an amazing job of overcoming them. The spread of infectious disease has been in decline for decades and is expected to continue to fall. Total mortality from infections has dropped from 800 per 100,000 people in 1900 to just 50 per 100,000 in 2000. And once-feared diseases including cholera, typhoid fever and smallpox have been virtually wiped out. That?s a key reason humans are living longer, healthier and happier lives.
Unfortunately, covering the news is always going to require journalists to report bad news. For example, no television station is ever going to send a reporter to provide live updates on a river that?s not overflowing its banks.
Still, too much good news is going unreported. In our rush to cram the world into 30 minutes, we?re missing the bigger picture. Life today is good and, for most of us, it?s getting better. Too bad we?ll never see film of that at 11.